StreetView is fuelling the Mapmania in travel

The potential for location-based information is becoming increasingly apparent as it infiltrates our everyday lives.

It’s a logical way of connecting people, and has the potential to drastically simplify how we research, select and book a holiday. Imagine if you were able to do it all from one map.

However, the availability of the necessary data and technology has been somewhat prohibitive in allowing such a system to be developed. This looks set to change in 2009 with a viable solution on the way.

The acquisition of data has accelerated since Google effectively bought its own satellite in September 2008.

Despite this move Google was still beaten by Italian company Seety in providing the data and imagery for map users to view certain UK locations at street level as if actually standing there.

But Google is close behind and has already unveiled (and, in some cases, removed elements of) its highly controversial StreetView product. Other advances in 2009 include laser- scanning technologies, which generate 3d visual models of a city.

Having already been trialled in a few places, this year the technology is to be extended across more cities adding another virtual way for a destination to be experienced before visiting.

As the data from these latest developments becomes more accessible, consumers will increasingly expect a very different sales experience from the travel industry than they have been used to.

There will be an increased blur between the use of visual channels such as mapping, 3d modelling and video to create a desirable experience. But, it is not only the content of what is on offer that is changing.

The popularity of the iPhone has already shown how favourably consumers react to touch screen technology, and as this comes into the mainstream market with the launch of the touch screen interface from Windows 7, its use within travel and leisure will become an increasingly expected means of interacting with the data.

Although the use of maps in some shape or form has become fairly widespread within the industry, and commercialisation has increased there are very few examples of travel companies utilising the full potential that mapping offers.

With ‘Mapmania’ being identified by Techtrends as one of the top trends to watch for 2009 and with the planned developments in this arena, it will be interesting to see how the technology and its uses within the travel industry develop over the coming year as well as how the travel industry develops with it.

Fiona Canavan is sales and marketing manager for Earthware

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